City’s baseball, football fields may need new lights

Published 12:21 am Wednesday, February 13, 2019


Franklin Power and Light and the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation have jointly requested that the City Council include upgrades to the stadium lighting at Armory Park’s baseball and football fields in Franklin’s 2019-2024 Capital Improvements Plan. The project, if approved, is estimated to cost the city several hundred thousand dollars over the next few years.

Department heads say that safety concerns — mainly for the city employees who must maintain the lights — are the reason behind the request. Mark Bly, director of FP&L, informed the council in January that some of Armory Park’s light poles, which were installed in 1982, are no longer safe for maintenance workers to climb.

This past August, he said, the city temporarily addressed the issue by renting a bucket truck — at an unbudgeted expense of $3,000 — to lift workers all the way to the top of the park’s 80-foot poles. Prior to 2018, employees would use the city’s bucket trucks, which can only ascend up to 60 feet, and manually climb the poles the rest of the way.

“The concrete poles have ‘steps’ attached that have become unsecure,” Bly said. “The ‘platform’ structure at the top of the pole where the light fixtures are located is what we consider unsafe due to corrosion of fasteners and [being] unable to tighten the equipment to the pole top.”

Also of concern are the light levels these poles currently produce. This past fall, Bly arranged for the Indiana-based company Musco Sports Lighting LLC to audit Armory Field, and to provide possible solutions. Musco’s report concluded that the Armory Park baseball and football fields had roughly half the light levels the company typically recommends for high school sports. The softball field, however, measured as having acceptable light levels.

While there is no statewide standard for Virginia high school sports in terms of stadium lighting, Harley Abernathy, a sales representative for Musco, explained that the company typically recommends 50 foot-candles in the infield and 30 foot-candles in the outfield for baseball fields. For football, he said, some schools go with 50 foot-candles and others go with 30 foot-candles. A foot-candle, he said, is a measurement of light per square foot.

As for Armory Field, “It definitely fell short of the guidelines that we normally light a baseball or football field,” said Joe Forche, another Musco sales representative from the company’s Richmond office.

Forche explained that the city’s existing field lights use metal halide lamps, which depreciate in terms of the amount of light they can produce after so many hours of usage. As for a solution, he suggested the city replace these with LED (light-emitting diode) lamps, which are much longer lasting, use less electricity and would distribute a consistent light level more evenly across the fields.

Forche has presented the city with four options, ranging in cost from $230,000 to $320,000. The two less expensive options involve replacing only the light fixtures, while the two more expensive options include replacing the light poles as well. The total cost would be spread out over the next 10 years in annual payments ranging from $28,579.43 to $41,570.08, depending on which of the four options the city chooses. The city would also pay a 4.85-percent interest rate.

The city would, however, also be saving money each year by virtue of no longer needing to provide maintenance on the newly installed lights. As part of the contract, Musco would provide all maintenance, and all lights would come with a 10-year warranty (if the existing poles were reused) or a 25-year warranty (if new poles were installed).

The City Council will make a decision on whether or not to include the project in its CIP as part of its upcoming budget meetings.